CNN recently published a report on the biggest rip-offs in America. The items businesses peddle as “necessary” and charge you dearly for. However, do you really NEED these items? Granted, they didn’t name their list “The Top Necessity Rip-offs in America,” but America is a convenience nation – we forgot what’s needed and what’s unnecessary long ago. Take it or leave it – here’s my two cents.
So what’s on the list?
Text messaging: According to computer scientist Srinivasan Keshav, in a testimony to US senators,, it costs a carrier a third of a cent to send out a text. However, sending one can cost you up to 20 cents, and receiving one up to 10 cents. Text messaging isn’t a real necessity – don’t tell that to the average teenager. I am a teenager and I text message, but not nearly as much as some of my more obsessed society mates. Don’t like the price? Do without.
Restaurant wine: Do I even need stats for this one? Go buy your own wine. I hate wine… Don’t like the price? Draft beer.
Movie theater popcorn: Ah yes, the familiar salted, buttered, fluffy puffs that only make you want to buy another drink and grease up your jeans – or your girlfriend’s shirt, if you’re shameless. It’s not just the corn, the drinks are ridiculously overpriced, thee candy is marked up, and to make it all worse you have to actually sneak in your own cheaper sustenance. There’s the solution, right there, all nice and neat. Don’t like the price? Pass.
Free credit reports: I want to get this one over with, for fear of that insufferable song getting stuck in my head and making me have to clean my palette by watching a caveman commercial. CNN reports the TripleAdvantage asks for your credit card number and charges it throughout the year – $14.99 monthly. The fact that you have to give your credit card information in the first place should tell you something. Luckily, annualcreditreport.com lets you check it once a year and is truly free. Now that you have another option, you have no logical reason to complain when the dudes in the lame band made you pay 15 bucks a month on a “free” credit report. Don’t like the price? Use the free one… unless you like the illusion of free but just can’t stand to not have more superfluous garbage deducted from your account.
Name brand painkillers: Same ingredients, higher price. Come on now. All you pay for with name brand ANYTHING is the illusion of higher quality. However, many easily-led people never stop to look at the back of the bottle. The perception seems to have become “rich people, name brand – not rich people, generic brand.” A lot of well-off people couldn’t stand to be seen with generic anything – no famous celebrities endorse generic brands. Don’t like the price? Suck it up and buy generic, you superficial consumers.
College textbooks: Technically not a necessity if you don’t plan on going to college. However, if you are in college, you know the story with textbooks: pay hundreds of dollars, use them for a few months; re-sell for less. As reported by a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the approximate cost of books and other supplies is $900. Book prices almost tripled from 1986 to 2004 in a study by the Government Accountability Office. Something tells me that textbooks should be included in college study. Not just because public school offers them free; you can doodle in your own books.College students have it hard enough – stop jacking up the prices for what they need to succeed. That’s especially true here in Michigan, where the $2,000-$4,000 Michigan Promise Scholarship was cut due to a dismal economy. Don’t like the price? Neither do I – I plan on starting college soon.
Super gasoline: Seriously? If you see this as a necessity, you’re probably not exactly paying for your fuel with loose change. Still – don’t like the price? Buy unleaded.
Hotel mini-bars: Once again, if you’re willing to pay $20 for a can of nuts, that’s probably not your only meal for the day. Either that, or you see the outrageous price as a justifiable opportunity cost for going to the store and buying them for a few dollars. I’d go as far as to say America has the most frequently stocked mini bars. Don’t like the price? They’re called “convenience” stores for a reason – even though they mark up some items ridiculously themselves.
Hotel in-room movies: With the advent of Netflix, I find it hard to believe that some people still pay insane prices just to be able to sit in the comfort of their hotel room and watch a movie. Many rooms don’t have movie players or A/V composite jacks for a reason. If you don’t have the self control to refrain from buying one of these films for one time viewing, I shudder to think of how you are at the mall. Don’t like the price? Imagination. Use it.
I think it was a pretty good list, but they missed a few obvious ones:
Food at ballparks and stadiums: In this case, you have no choice but to settle for convenience – you can’t smuggle in your own stuff. If I’m going to pay $7 for a soda, I’d better grow a few inches or have rainbows fly out of my mouth. Which leads to…
Parking: Of all of the stories I’ve heard of vandalized cars that are parked at sporting events, the variable ridiculous cost just to park your car doesn’t seem worth it at all.
There are some other obvious random money-wasters – why would you pay for an entire new printer cartridge when you can simply have it refilled? Why be scammed by the ShamWow when you can buy a generic shammy towel? Why pay more for organic foods? Why the hell do funerals cost so much? Why so much for booking fees? Why should I have to pay to take the SAT?
Then there are the scams unsuspecting hopefuls buy into and pay dearly. We’ve all gotten the e-mail from some rich guy’s secretary in Rwanda. You give a little info at first because you are the lucky recipient of some important figure’s funds. After you send in your address, you’re prompted for your bank information from which they have a field day with your funds.
Cash4Gold has been touched on by this site before, it’s an obvious pile of crap. If you expect to get cash for gold you send through the mail in a plastic envelope, you deserve the meager funds you may or may not receive.
US Fidelis, an auto warranty company promising to pay your auto repair bills for money you send in, has an “F” with the Better Business Bureau in Wisconsin after receiving THOUSANDS of complaints from customers who weren’t able to have their vehicles repaired for free as promised according to a 20/20 segment I saw on ABC. The state of Missouri has a class-action lawsuit set against the company for deceitful business.
And let’s not forget those Emmy-award winners who pose as police or other forms of authority to swindle unsuspecting people out of money. Every day it seems there’s a new scam sweeping the nation, be it on the internet or in life. It’s scary stuff.
I think I know why the bigger scam artist companies are still riding high.
With the state of this economy, people are getting more desperate and easily-led. Corporate swine don’t care for the feelings of suffering people – hell, they feed off of suffering. They play off of the impulsive emotions and decisions of the hopeless, making false claims and padded promises just to snatch your hard-earned cash and KNOW that you’ll be content with whatever you receive.
As for the willingness to pay through the nose for things that shouldn’t require descriptive metaphors – if you have the extra cash, have at it. If not and you still do these things, you really have no place to complain.
Be sensible, stay informed on the latest scams and as the platitude goes… “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”